Familiar Pattern

Escape Room

by Hope Madden

Man, I really liked Escape Room back in 1997 when it was called Cube.

Director Adam Robitel, who managed to do something fresh and upsetting with his 2014 feature directorial debut The Taking of Deborah Logan, here contents himself with borrowing … lifting…no, this is downright larceny.

In Vincenzo Natali’s underfunded but groundbreaking Canadian horror, Cube, six strangers—each with unique skills and backgrounds—find themselves trapped in a building and must unravel each room’s puzzle only to escape to the next room/deathtrap.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the trailer for Escape Room, but Robitel and screenwriters Maria Melnik and Bragi F. Schut have certainly seen Cube.

Cripplingly shy brainiac Zoey (Taylor Russell) is one of a handful of random strangers to receive a puzzle box in the shape of a cube. Let’s just assume that’s a nod toward the film’s source material and not a different, terrible rip off of Hellraiser.

By solving the puzzle, Zoey—and, sprinkled all over town, others—win the opportunity to attempt the most elaborate escape room ever constructed.

Actually, the architecture is weirdly familiar.

If you can get past the plagiarism and lazy theft–please add Final Destination and Saw to the list of the aggrieved—you will note that Russell and the entire cast performs quite well. Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood) impresses as a bit of a badass, while Nik Dodani endears in a small role and Tyler (Tucker and Dale vs Evil) Labine is adorable, as is almost always the case.

Many of the set pieces are pretty cool, too. One upside-down billiards room bit, in particular, holds your attention. But the game cast and sometimes fun sequences can only overcome the film’s weaknesses for so long.

Even if all these antics are new to you, the film’s predictable climax and disappointing waning moments are bound to leave you feeling that this movie could have been better.

It was once.

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